Scams That Computer Technicians Should Watch Out For

There seems to be scams in just about every industry including the computer repair world. However, this article isnt a piece on shady computer repair technicians, this article is about scams that target computer technicians.

Here are two common scams against computer technicians that you should watch out for:

Fake Check Scam
The way this scam works is the that scammer will email you about purchasing a large amount of hardware. Since you are a smart person, you are obviously not going to send them anything until the check clears. The scammer will send you the fake check but the amount will be for more than you originally quoted. Shortly afterwards they will say that they accidentally sent you too much and ask if you could send them back the difference. So, you send the difference and a couple of days the check doesn’t clear because its fake. The scammer was never after the hardware, they were after the difference on the fake check and that’s how they get you.

Most technicians that have had this sent to them said that it mostly comes from their ads on Craigslist. Here are some common emails of this scam that Technibble forum members have seen:

Hello,
How you doing? My name is [Name],l from [Location] and right now i work in [Location]. I read your description and am interested in your services,I just brought some computers and they are are laptops Pentium 4 dell computer ..i want you to Install software such as Microsoft Office and Antivirus, clean inner & outer computer components, update software to current status,Get back to me with you total cost for the services of eight computer excluding the shipping cost cus i have a shipper that will come with the computers and the necessary Softwares to you.I await your urgent response so that i can put the arrangement in order

Thanks
[Name]

Hello
Am [Name] by name,I live in [Location] and right now i work in New [Location] and i also sale laptop over here , I read your description and am interested in your services, I just brought some computers from [Location] and they are D510 Dell laptops. I want you to Installation of Laptops and Servers, clean inner and outercomputer components,Upgrade troubleshoot, Remove Viruses, Pop-ups, Spyware,Hardware installation, Windows installation and update software to current status.
Get back to me with your total cost for the services of eight Dell Laptops excluding the shipping cost bcus i have a shipper that will come with the computers and the necessary Softwares to you.
I await your response so that i can put the arrangement in order.
Ineed certified experience person With a commitment to making computing simple and a belief in personal.
please i need a urgent responed ok
regard
[Name]

Hello
My name is [Name],then i m 44 years old i from [Location] and right now i work in missonary school in [Location] i was the headmistress of the school. I read your description and am interested in your services,becos we just brought some computers and they are are laptops Pentium 4 dell computer at school ..i want you to Install software such as Microsoft Office and Antivirus, clean inner & outer computer components, update software to current status,and i want you to do it fast becos we are having a programme very soon then if you can do this fast for me i will make you be our pasonal computer services then i will also introduce to our branches in all the states becos i think they also need computer services too becos we just have the programe that will need inuse of the laptop for the children, so Get back to me with you total cost for the services of eight computer excluding the shipping cost becos we have a shipper that will come with the computers and the necessary Softwares to you .and also as i told you before that i want to make this fast becos of the programe that we are having very soon and you have to tell me how many days will cost to finish it after you got the laptop with you there.
so to make the payment faster i I’ll be sending you a Check for payment which i’ll like you to deduct your fees for the 8Computers and help me send the rest balance to my the shipper that will move the Computer from my place to your place for your Service because i will be going on a visit to TEXAS for a meeting . I will keep you posted of when you are likely to receive the payment. If this is okay with you let me have the follow:

NAME….
ADDRESS….
CITY….
STATE….
ZIPCODE…
PHONE NUMBER….
I await your urgent response so that i can put the arrangement in order
Thanks

Hello,
I saw your ad and I was just checking if you could help me repair and
install some softwares 17 of my staffs’ PC.

I’ll await your response so as to send you more details as regards the
repair and specific softwares needed.”

Seems pretty simple, I asked for more details and I’ll let you know what the response is when I get it.. How would one go about charging for a project like this? Thanks!

I believe the est way to avoid this scam is just to simply be aware of it. Most of the emails for this particular scam are similar to those mentioned above.

The Missing Hardware Scam
Another scam that is attempted against computer technicians is when a client brings in a computer that is either not working, or saying that its slow when it shouldn’t be since it has a [high amount] of RAM.

When they bring in a computer that isn’t working, you take your time to look at it only to find a critical part is missing like the CPU, RAM, or Hard Drive. When you tell the client this, they accuse you of stealing it and if you don’t replace it they are going to tell everyone about how you stole it or sue you. Of course, to keep the peace some technicians may replace the part.

A technician on the Technibble forums said that he had two guys come in with a laptop saying that it was running slow. During the time these clients were in his shop, they kept saying “It should be fast, since it has 4 gigs of ram, fast processor, etc”. It seemed odd to this technician that they kept repeating this so he stopped what he was doing, looked at the System Properties to find that the computer only had 256mb of RAM, not 4gb. He suspected this was a scam but wasn’t certain so he told them to take the computer to Best Buy because he “couldn’t fix it” and sent them on their way.

The best way to avoid this scam is to check the computer specifications in front of them by either by powering it up which proves its not missing an essential part and look at the System Properties. If it doesn’t boot, open it up and look inside. Whatever your findings are, write them down in detail on a work order in front of them.

If you have seen other scams in the computer repair world that wasn’t mentioned here, drop us a comment. As usual, you don’t need to sign up to leave a comment and you can even post anonymously.



Bryce Whitty

About the Author

Bryce Whitty
More articles by me...
Bryce is an Australian computer technician and the founder of Technibble. He started his computer repair business when he was 17 years old and is still running it 9 years later. He is an avid traveller and spends at least a month of the year in another country.

Comments (37)

  • Christi says:

    We had a young man come in one day and wanted us to reformat his “250″ GB hard drive. We were skeptical at first, but we took it in just for a look. Well, upon further inspection he had 2 hard drives, a 20GB and something else, I can’t remember. Anyway, my boss called him and told him he didn’t have the HD he thought he did, and the kid got all offensive and claimed we “stole” his hard drive, and demanded we put a new hard drive in his computer. He was either trying to scam us or the guy that supposedly put his hard drive in his computer was. We did not put the hard drive in the computer and he and his father came and picked up the machine, it was just a mess!

  • Fahad says:

    Wow, scammers are everywhere! Do they really think that computer technicians will fall for spams like these? I doubt it.

  • Brian says:

    I get the first email all the time, I almost fell for it the first time, thinking the person was just illiterate. haha

  • Stu says:

    I had a man approach me in the street after he spotted my liveried van outside his house whilst I worked across the road.

    He asked for a quote to speed up his really slow computer and install more RAM. Before I knew it he disappeared into his house and promptly re-emerged carrying the machine. He said he was off on holiday the next day, and asked me to call him in a couple of weeks when it was ready. I was taken aback at how trusting he was.

    Back at the workshop, it quicky became apparant that besides needing a RAM upgrade, the machine was frequently rebooting by itself, indicating a bad PSU. The guy had neglected to mention this to me, although he couldn’t possibly have missed the problem.

    Upon taking the machine back, he would not let me into his house to set it up onsite, as I do with all my customers. He denied the rebooting problem had occurred to him and acted dumb. He also claimed that I had quoted him a lower amount than we had actually agreed, despite me having a copy of the SMS text message to prove my original quote.

    In the end I stood my ground and was paid the full amount. I have since learned that the guy is a serial scammer and will try it on anywhere.

    The lesson learned was never, EVER work on a machine that you have not observed in situ beforehand, or at least gone through in your workshop with the customer. There is just too much potential for disagreements and scams.

    I was lucky mine was only a very minor case.

  • Ron says:

    Any time someone “over-writes” a check like that and wants cash, check, credit card, transfers, etc, it is a scam.

  • sys-eng says:

    One sure give away of a scam is that they are by stupid people who cannot spell or write a correct sentence. I have never seen one of these “teasers” that actually looked legitimate. They all appear to be creations of young kids.

  • Albert says:

    I have received the first email from craigslist numerous times. The first time I received the email I bought into it. Thankfully I received the same email, word for word from a completely different address within the same day which set off my scam alarm. Stupid Nigerian scammers.

  • Zach Doty says:

    I had someone send me an email exactly like the first one you quote in your post, verbatim. It looked like a scam to me, so I just deleted it.

    Other than that, I’ve never had a customer or potential customer try to scam me in connection with my IT business.

    Great article!

  • Rubén says:

    @Albert Stupid North American Racists.

    What’s up with you? Do you really need to come here and talk about the people from another country?

  • 3shot3kill says:

    I agree with Albert. Many of the scams on the Internet do originate in Nigeria and are composed by people whose first language is obviously not English.

    I still have a $4000. check sent to me in the “overpayment/reimbursement” scam that was mentioned.

    The email was so poorly written that it was easy to identify as a fake. I suggested that he pay his shipper himself and use the balance of his money to take a remedial English course.

    I also sent a copy of the check and email to the FTC at http://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

  • GOLDNSQUID says:

    @Ruben

    How are you on the internet and never heard of the Nigerian scams? You should Google it sometime, also the correct word would be Prejudice and not Racist.

  • wifimstr says:

    I had an incident with a repeat client whom
    I had done work previously. On the second PC problem, I had to install a new power supply. When I returned the PC to the customer it booted fine. As it did in the shop. The customer claimed that his machine ran windows XP, and this one was running windows 98. I knew that he was running win98, because his hardware would not support XP. After he insisted that I was wrong, I showed him the scanner he had been using was only compatible with windows 98 and not XP. He was really running some old equipment. End of story, but I know he was trying to get something for nothing. Always be vigilent.

  • Wil Harbin says:

    @GOLDNSQUID Very well stated. That word gets tossed around too much.

  • mike says:

    This is why I will not deal with homeusers only companies that have a real office not a home office

  • Votre says:

    Some of the worst scams aren’t so blatant.

    If you fall for enough of what I call “semi-scams” you can also put yourself out of business fairly quickly.

    My favorite “semi-scam” is the client who asks for a substantial immediate discount in return for promises of larger orders or future work.

    The line goes something like this:

    “We have an office with over 50 PCs. We’re going to need to replace at least half of them in the coming year, and we’d like you to be the guys handling our order. We will also be wanting to set up some sort of support and maintenance contract for all of our machines. So we were wondering if you could do something on the price for this machine we’re buying from you right now since we’re a little tight on cash right now. Of course, we’d agree to have you make it up by charging us a little extra on all our future orders. It’ll be our way of saying ‘thank you’ for helping us out right now.”

    Needless to say, the future “big order” and the promised “service contact” never happen.

    We’ve put a stop to this nonsense by saying we may be able offer discounts on the future orders based on volume. But we’ll need to see the volume before we can do so.

    The phonies usually just say “thank you for your time” and beat it out the door.

    Good riddance to them.

  • sys-eng says:

    Votre:

    As that genius athletic capitalist on Jerry Macguire said, “SHOW ME THE MONEY!!”

  • BSoD says:

    Sorry for veering off topic but I feel I must. I can see where Ruben is coming from and how statements like “Nigerian scams” can be offensive. Look at the recent “craigslist killer” was he a Nigerian? One of the greatest scammers of our time Bernie Madoff was not Nigerian. Look at all the ponzi schemers who have been in the news recently none of them are Nigerian. Even Charles Ponzi himself was not a Nigerian but I’m not going to start saying oh those Italian scammers because that is stupid and offensive. That’s like me saying all Colombians are heroin sellers because that’s what I see in the media a lot. Bad people come from all walks of life is all I’m saying.

  • James says:

    I think the best way to get around that first scam if your unlucky enough to get caught in it is that when you recv the message about the check having been written for over the amount just send them back the original check with a request they fwd you a correct one.
    In practice I would never deposit a check for over the amount agreed upon because of this type situation.

  • InterNet Age says:

    Before dabbling in marketing and eventually specializing in web design and development I was a partner in a high end car audio store. Loads of similar stories, with people swopping out decks and trying to claim the faulty unit was under guarantee, etc. Religiously keeping job cards and noting down serial numbers helped with this, but the worst we had was a gentleman with a very nice jaguar that claimed there was extra mileage on his car, and stopped his cheque because of that….ouch

  • Nathan H says:

    I had a cheque sent for over the amount.

    when they asked for the difference, back, I said yes no problem as soon as the cheque clears I’ll send you the difference, they tried to argue for payment immediately, but as the over payment was an error on there part, after they received our quote, they would have to wait for a refund.

    Needless to say I never heard anything back, and as I hadn’t cashed the cheque at that point. I never did…..

    I did learn a vital lesson, I only accept cheques with a valid cheque guarantee card, and I only accept cheques from UK Banks (I’m in the UK, and its a criminal offence to write a cheque knowing it wont clear.)

  • mos elo says:

    We have the same problem once.

    A customer bring his computer and ask us to make a back for his pictures in a CD and re-install a fresh version of windows xp.

    when later we check the computer it have hard drive problem. his hard drive damage.

    when we call him about that he said the computer was working just before he bring it, and acuse us that we change his hard drive and he ask for an other hard drive for free.

    the only way was to call for him the police.

  • Fonseca says:

    This happened to us:
    - girl delivers PC for repair, gets the receipt
    - girl calls a couple of days later saying that we can deliver the repaired computer to his brother because she can’t come herself
    - guy shows up and asks for the computer; he has no receipt and says he didn’t know he needed it; because we know the girl, we deliver. He pays for the repair, no problem.
    - a COUPLE OF MONTHS later, someone shows up with the receipt, and demands that we give him a new computer (high spec) because we can’t find the repaired one…

    We managed to solve this because we recognized the name of the girl on the original work order; we managed to track her down and call her; she excused herself, said that this third guy was family as well and it was all a mix up (riiight)… he left visibly frustrated because it didn’t work.

    From then on, the receipt is mandatory to everyone.

  • meClaudius says:

    I have to wonder if on some of these, the customer may be honest but just got scammed elsewhere and didn’t realize it.

    This might make a case for running SIW in front of them (assuming it boots), having them initial it and attach it to the work order.

    However, all of this is an issue of trust, the customer probably read about some of the tech scam horror stories and doesn’t trust you anymore than you can trust them. Unfortunately, No way to do business (without trust)!

  • crashuk says:

    OMG the people you talk about get me mad. you take the time to go to they house and fix they computer and they try to get out of paying you.

  • Austin says:

    This isnt a scam that happened to us but it did make me think and it is something for you to think of if you do on-site work:-

    I had a call from a guy who said he wanted his computer repaired and I arranged to call in 2 days time. When I arrived he let me in and HE said “where is the computer?”. I had a puzzled look on my face and said Im here to fix it. the guy said – “You took it yesterday”!! I explained that I hadnt and he had made the appointment with me for today and here I am.

    He then got angry and said I was trying to scam him and had “knicked” his computer. I told him he was wrong and asked who else did he call – he said only me!! I left and said ok I will check with my other technicain and ring you back! I went to my van and called the police to explain. I left it with them. About a week later the police rang and said the guy who had taken it had fixed it and returned. Apparently the customer was an addict and didnt recall calling out the other firm.

    ALSO on several occasion we have had people phone and ask “Is the computer ready?” when we ask for their details we have no idea who they are. They are convinced it was us who picked up their pc.

  • Chad says:

    Well lets see, there are the classic broke asses that have you order parts, and when they arrive, they can’t afford to pay… love them… I now require 50% of parts cost upfront, and not it on their estimate. I just had a fun one today, an old lady had me build a computer for her and, then a week later she calls saying it a PoS, it has an error message poping up, and it won’t burn cds. (I know you’ve all had one like this LOL) I say that I am really sorry she feels that way and I will be out tomorrow to check the machine out. I get there and she has NO clue how to burn cds, I spend a hour teaching her (for free, I’m a softy) and the error message was because her screen was a dual input screen and she was turning it on after starting the computer, and it was defaulting to the wrong input. I really should have charged her, after she bad mouthed me and my computer, but I just let it go.

  • Chad says:

    sorry that was really a little OT but I really needed to vent. :)

  • Tim says:

    Great article…and thanks for all the stories. My favorite is still the addict who forgot he called multiple repair techs to fix his computer. Here’s to the brotherhood of PC techs…Cheers! Let’s be careful out there.

  • Randy says:

    Today, I received TWO e-mails with the old “I have 11 PCs for you to install software” scam. Of course, I recognized that it was a scam but I couldn’t figure out their angle until I read HERE about the overpayment scam. Now I know! Thanks, guys.

  • Ian says:

    The closest I ever got was a PC which was entirely virus ridden. The viruses were so bad that I didn’t assume anything else was causing the random freezing.

    I told them it would have to be formated and reinstalled (this was in the days when there wasn’t software like Combofix). I started backing up the data and got a load of read errors on the hard disk.

    I then did a check and of course the drive comes back with a load of bad sectors. I phone and inform that they will also need a new hard drive and they gave me a load of abuse saying the HD worked perfectly before etc.

    I now cover myself in these situations by saying I will remove the viruses and it iwll be £xx providing I don’t have any hardware problems.

  • Bazz says:

    Not sure if I’m repeating this.

    Had a guy come in looking to purchase a good number of computers, not sure the amount, about 12 I think. This is extremely unusual as we based in a small town. Anyway, did the quotes and he gave the go ahead. We kindly mentioned that as our suppliers and couriers are COD we would need an upfront deposit. Immediately the attitude changed and the body language turned ugly and we lost that deal.

    Then a few days later we heard one of our competitors in town, a little further down the road had lost about the same amount of computers to a client.

    Not sure it was the same guy, just such a coincidence and it makes you even more aware for the future.

  • The Desolate One says:

    I’m sure ALL of you know this one. This one is by far the most common of ALL scams, because it is very general in nature. Say you remove viruses from a person’s computer. Everything is fine and you don’t hear from them for a month. Then a month later they contact you telling you of a DIFFERENT problem that has absolutely NOTHING to do with viruses. You take a look at their computer, tell them what the NEW problem is, then they look you dead in your face and say, “You’re not going to charge me to fix it, RIGHT???” And you’re looking back at them like they’re a mental patient. Then they say, “Well, it wasn’t doing this BEFORE you worked on it, so it must be something you did when you fixed it”. I’ll bet 50 bux that there’s not a tech on this web site that has not dealt with that kind of scam at LEAST once. Those customers are by far the most dangerous, because they will try to trap you in an endless loop of fixing their computers for free, FOREVER. When you get a customer like THAT, you gotta get rid of them QUICK.

    the.desolate_one@yahoo.com

  • The Doctor says:

    @The Desolate One:

    & this is exactly why I don’t provide in-home tech support. With my service, I do the work, then system image to USB drive or NAS (depending on how many rigs I’m working on). I then cp the img back to the client rig w/ a very noticeable desktop icon marked “Backup To Burn.”

    Of course, before the client takes ownership, I have them sit before their PC then show them it boots fr cold-state. I have them play with it to ensure it’s working as expected. Only then do I tell them about the image & if they don’t burn it ASAP, it’ll cost just as much if they have future trouble.

    Hell, in my area, the big-box stores charge 3x more for onsite service than I to book a courier for pickup.

    Cheers,
    – The Doctor

  • Hannagan's Computers says:

    I sold a new pc once and a customer calls me a month later saying the pc wont boot. I then thought that the hard drive had issues so i put a new hd in and reloaded the os. A few months later he calls me and says it wont boot again. So I go and look at it and sure enough it wont boot. I then became suspicious and took the pc back to my shop. Only this time I realized the hard drive i replaced wasnt the same one I replaced the bad one with. So I called the customer with this info and he said your pc you sold me is a piece of ++++. I told him I would be glad to give him a check back for the pc in full and he can take his busiess elsewere. Now keep in mind this guy had 3 other pc’s in his house. I then got to his house with the check and said before i give you your money back I wanna see the serial numbers on the hd’s in the other pc’s. Long story short he said im sorry and took his pc back and havent heard a word since.

  • Aaron says:

    For the techs that seem to be having trouble with onsite work and the people trying to blame you and get the work for free, there is a solution. I’ve personally put together a contract that covers all the basics: 1,Ensure that they agree to pay for 1 hour labor minimum, 2,That you, the technician are not responsible for damage to components that might die while working on their machine,3, the customer is responsible for backing up essential data should anything with the hard drive go wrong, and finally 4, there is no guarantee that the problem will be fixed as the experience and knowledge of different techs will always vary. There is a bit more. I got the original draft from a friend who found a pdf download of a service agreement at a college computer service place on campus. I just simply revised it to fit my business. If anyone would like a copy sent, my email is arsgarf@yahoo.com. Always glad to help a fellow tech

  • bob says:

    We fix laptops at our shop. With laptops I always flip them over and see if any screws are missing, if they are I ask the customer “did you open it”?

    What happens is you take it in for repair and open it to find a damaged motherboard and then call the customer to tell them they need a new board only to have them reply “well it wasn’t that way when I bought it in”.